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Activists hope to give Enhanced Transit Corridors Plan more teeth at first Council hearing today

Posted by on June 20th, 2018 at 9:06 am

This PBOT graphic shows where they want to make transit better.

UPDATE: The plan was adopted 3-0.

At 2:00 pm today (6/20) Portland City Council is set to hear public testimony on the Enhanced Transit Corridors plan. The move will allow the Portland Bureau of Transportation to move forward with design and development of projects aimed at making transit faster, more reliable, and ultimately more competitive than driving.

“We know the Sirens of parking and automobility will sing. Please give PBOT the wax and rope it will need to sail safely past.”
— Portland Bus Lane Project ETC plan testimony

Activists who helped spur the plan are exciting to see it come to fruition, but they’ll testify today that PBOT should not cower to driving convenience. Volunteers with Portland Bus Lane Project will urge the City to make the plan’s language even stronger to ensure that it gives PBOT planners the tools they need to defend our streets against the scourge of driving abuse that’s killing our transit system.

You don’t even have to listen to activists to understand how too much driving is hurting transit in Portland. Here’s the language in today’s ordinance as written by PBOT themselves:

The City of Portland and the region are at a critical point in the evolution of our transit network; buses and streetcars, along with all the people on them, are increasingly stuck in traffic and getting slower. They are often delayed due to congestion while full of passengers and late to pick up new passengers. This leads to longer travel times by transit. It causes people to be delayed, miss transfers to other transit lines and ultimately arrive late to their destinations… all of this delay and unreliability shrinks people’s access to places by transit within a reasonable travel time and makes transit less competitive with driving… each year resources for transit service hours are spent just trying to keep up schedules due to congestion, reducing the potential funding to increase transit service frequency. TriMet spends roughly $1-2 million a year to add service just to keep up the same schedules… demand for transit service is only expected to increase… transit service will deteriorate over time, unless the City and TriMet do something significant to prioritize transit reliability and speed improvements in the Central City and along our key corridors and mains streets.

To help give them the tools they need to get the job done, Portland Bus Lane Project will call on the City to make good on its stated priorities of saving lives and using our streets to move people, not just vehicles. “There is no room in this list to ‘balance the needs’ of single-occupancy vehicle drivers,” write Bus Lane Project Co-Chair Paul Leitman and founding member Alan Kessler. “There’s no room for preservation of parking where the right-of-way could be better configured for safety and movement of people.”

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Kessler and Leitman know that adopted policy will only go so far as long as agency culture still prevents bold actions. “Car priority is entrenched in traffic engineering,” they write. “Without explicit instruction from Council, engineers will tell planners that the changes we need to make are impossible, would require expensive traffic analysis, or would necessarily involve time-consuming outreach to stakeholders. City Council has the authority to direct the city’s engineers to look beyond the emphasis on personal vehicles and find creative, new approaches to these problems. And it should do so.”

Portland Bus Lane Project has two specific asks: They want every identified street segment that has document transit delays over the allowed threshold (those with a timing variation of between 50 and 75 percent) — and that has two or more existing vehicle lanes in the same direction — to be reconfigured with a dedicated, carfree transit lane; They also want lanes currently used for parking cars to be converted to “pro-time” (no parking during peak hours) or fully dedicated bus lanes on every street with delays over the threshold — and they want it done without further studies or public outreach.

“We know the Sirens of parking and automobility will sing,” reads their letter, “Please give PBOT the wax and rope it will need to sail safely past.”

The plan could also act as a bulwark against future attempts by outside actors who will defend the driving status quo at literally any cost. As reported yesterday by the New York Times, the billionaire Koch brothers are aggressively pushing back against transit projects all over the country in a misguided attempt to preserve the “freedom” of driving.

Once the ETC plan passes Council its recommendations will become part of Portland’s Transportation System Plan, it will allow PBOT to work closely with Metro on the Regional Enhanced Transit Concept Pilot Program, and it will trigger creation of an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between PBOT and TriMet that will speed up project development.

PBOT expects to be complete 30 percent design by this winter and move into final design and implementation of first tier projects by late fall 2019.

Today’s hearing starts at 2:00 pm in Council Chambers at Portland City Hall. Get all the links and info via PBOT’s latest project announcement.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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13 Comments
  • alankessler June 20, 2018 at 9:25 am

    If you can join us at 2PM today (6/20/18) at City Hall, please do so! If you can’t, please email cctestimony@portlandoregon.gov with subject Enhanced Transit Corridors, and give Council your support for reprioritizing our streets for people, not just cars.

    (We’d appreciate a BCC to dedicatedlanes@portlandb.us)

    More details on how to testify are here:

    https://mailchi.mp/6b1296b5d8d1/hawthorne-portlandbus-440295?e=3080e7ec5a

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    • I wear many hats June 20, 2018 at 10:39 am

      Thanks for the head up and good luck, comments sent!

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      • alankessler June 20, 2018 at 11:48 am

        Thank you!

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    • mark June 20, 2018 at 1:03 pm

      Thanks for all your hard work. I just sent an email voicing my support for Enhanced Transit Corridors.

      More wax and rope, please!

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      • alankessler June 20, 2018 at 1:12 pm

        Thank you! We’ll do our best this afternoon to bind PBOT to the mast.

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  • Joe June 20, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    I’ve also provided written comments in support. I really hope this happens. It’s hard to justify spending billions on major light rail projects when the City hasn’t even picked up the fruit sitting on the ground.

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    • alankessler June 20, 2018 at 1:13 pm

      It’s staggering the level of improvement we could make with some paint, some signs, and some spines.

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  • Middle of the Road Guy June 20, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    Nothing wrong with this! Improving public transit is (while not necessarily cheap) a good investment in public dollars.

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  • alankessler June 20, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Council just voted 3-0 to adopt the plan, and heard our encouragement to be even bolder. Thank you BikePortland and thank you everyone who shared their voices on the ETC!

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    • Gary B June 21, 2018 at 2:53 pm

      Great work. What do you mean by “heard” the encouragement? Did they make any improvements?

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      • alankessler June 21, 2018 at 3:19 pm

        Good question. Nothing so direct at that, but during the discussion before the vote, I thought the Commissioners showed interest and thoughtfulness about the scope of the problem. We know they got flooded with dozens of emails supporting transit. We’ll need to continue to push them, but between ETC and CCIM it looks like there may be some good progress soon.

        If you want to help us give a nudge next time, please make sure you’re signed up to receive very infrequent emails at http://portlandb.us

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  • 9watts June 20, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    Wax and rope – I love it!

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  • Douglas K June 21, 2018 at 7:44 am

    Toll the Burnside Bridge. That should reduce traffic immediately AND raise funds for the eventual need to make it earthquake-ready.

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